James McAvoy and Macbeth – increased accessibility for all

Last Monday night my wife and I went to see ‘Macbeth’ starring James McAvoy at the Trafalgar Studios theatre in Central London. This performance had live captioning provided by Stagetext. My friend Lidia got us the tickets, so I’m really grateful to her for that, particularly as these are really hot tickets at the moment, and according to my wife, the play has received rave reviews. This was the first time that I had actually been to the theatre since I lost my hearing three years ago and the first time that I had ever been to a captioned performance.

It was incredibly popular as people were queuing right down the street to get in and it was difficult to even get through the door with the amount of people blocking the entrance. The theatre itself was very intimate, with only 400 seats and the audience really close to the stage. In fact, some of the seats were actually on the stage and right behind the action, so we all felt like we were really connected with the action.

I was interested to see whether the Stagetext captioning would help me follow the play as obviously the dialogue is in Shakespearian English with strong Scottish accents. But I was very impressed! After I got used to glancing up at the captioned text above the performance with a hearing loop provided to me, I found I could follow the plot fairly well. I think that even if you don’t have a hearing loss, Macbeth would be fairly difficult to follow due to the language and Scottish accents.

The production itself was a very contemporary, energetic adaptation of Macbeth. It was gritty and gory with lots of blood everywhere, and the setting felt like I was in the middle of a Mad Max film. I thought that James McAvoy acted the role of Macbeth brilliantly as did Claire Foy as Lady Macbeth, although perhaps she over-acted a bit at times. The atmosphere felt increasingly claustrophobic throughout the drama, especially when Macbeth vomited, bled or spat on the stage during the action.

Afterwards, my wife and I had a quick drink in a local pub to discuss it. Joanna, my wife, told me that as a hearing person, she found the captions enhanced the performance. She thought that by reading the captioned text, she could follow the difficult dialogue easier than just relying on hearing it being spoken by the actors. We both agreed that in this respect, the captioning by Stagetext made the Macbeth performance more accessible for everyone, and not just deaf or hard of hearing people. The tickets were also really cheap, making it affordable and therefore more accessible to all. We are now looking forward to seeing more theatre productions with captioning in the future as this has now broken down another barrier for me to enjoy the theatre again.

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